Tuesday, May 28, 2024

“Education is most valued thing in my family”: Dalit scholar expelled from SAU, gets into Oxford

Bhimraj M, a Dalit research scholar who was expelled from the South Asian University (SAU) for participating in a protest against a reduction in the scholarship stipend for master’s students, will be pursuing an MPhil from Oxford University.

He has been awarded the Ratanshaw Bomanji Zaiwalla Scholarship by the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development, which will provide partial funding for his M.Phil studies at Oxford. His research proposal aims to delve into the Indian Legal Mechanism pertaining to the challenging of discriminatory waste facility sites. However, he will be responsible for covering his living expenses during his time at Oxford.

“I was heavily trolled on social media for crowd funding and was told that I was ‘begging’ for money but after all that I managed to raise a good amount,” Bhimraj said to Maktoob. “Apart from it a Chennai based Non-governmental organization -Voice of Common has also helped me with the remaining amount”, he said.

Bhimraj, originally from Tamil Nadu, relocated to Delhi in 2017 to pursue his studies in International Law at SAU. He successfully obtained a Masters’ degree in 2019 and during his studies, he achieved clearance in the UGC’s NET Junior Research Fellowship Examination (JRF) in 2018. Following the completion of his Masters, he returned to Tamil Nadu and held positions as a lecturer at Dr Ambedkar Law University and as a member of an NGO called Human Rights Foundation. In 2020, Bhimraj once again applied for SAU’s doctoral program and secured the top rank after being unsuccessful in his first attempt in 2019.

His research is centered on exploring the intersection of law and Dalit rights.

Coming from a minority community, Bhim perceives education as a vital instrument for enhancing his academic and social standing. He expresses, “I belong to a middle-class family, and we have encountered significant hardships in pursuing education, which is as fundamental and essential as breathing to sustain life. However, our systematic marginalization presents obstacles, compounded by the lack of equal opportunities and resources.”

Bhimraj is the second among his four siblings. His father, an Ambedkarite, worked as a postmaster until his retirement, while his mother, a homemaker, made every effort to ensure their children received an education.

Bhimraj said: “My family borrowed money, took loans, sold their assets to pay for me and my siblings’ education.”

“While scholarship was everything I needed to study, I had to struggle to get my JRF stipend from SAU administration. I took me 8 months to get the funds released,” he revealed.

In September last year, protests broke out in SAU demanding an increase in the scholarship stipend against a cut in scholarship for Masters’ students. Following the protests, SAU administration expelled students, Bhimraj was one among them. After the protests winded up in December with winter vacations, Bhimraj filed a complaint citing ‘institutional harassment’ against SAU administration before National Commission for scheduled Castes. He also filed a case before Delhi High Court against an order received by varsity’s proctorial department which asked them to vacate the hostel and leave the premises.

“We are yet to see any progress in both the cases, but I am not going to take it back. It has severely affected my mental health and studies”, said a doctoral fellow at SAU.

While some expelled students have produced an unconditional apology to the SAU administration, Bhimraj refused to do so. “We are not wrong, not going to apologize”, he asserted.

However, he strongly believes that students who apologized to the varsity are not wrong.
He said: “The students who have apologized might have done it under pressure and because they don’t have any other option to continue their studies. None of us are wrong, we stand our ground.”

As for his ongoing Phd at SAU, Bhimraj wishes to secure it if the university let him do that and will decide accordingly as per the legal case status.

Bhimraj concluded, “Education is the most valued thing in my family and they are all very elated to learn about my Oxford achievement.”

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